Enduring sexual abuse as a child can leave scars that other people do not see. One common psychological effect of abuse is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that about 3.6% of Americans will experience it every year. You might have it currently or have experienced it in the past without even realizing it.
What to know about PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychological response to severe trauma. Along with sexual abuse, some common triggers for PTSD include physical violence, car accidents and natural disasters. Although PTSD can manifest differently across many people, it has several distinct symptoms that you should watch out for, including:
- Flashbacks to the traumatic event
- Feelings of guilt or shame
- Startling easily
- Feeling detached from life
- Anxiety and/or depression
PTSD varies in severity. Some sufferers manage their symptoms easily, while others have difficulty functioning in their day-to-day lives. PTSD can also have costly damages, including lost wages, loss of earning potential and medical treatment.
Getting a diagnosis and getting help
If you believe that you might have PTSD as a result of sexual abuse, the first thing to do is seek treatment from a certified mental health professional. A counselor, therapist or psychologist who has experience treating trauma can sit down with you to discuss your symptoms. If they diagnose you with PTSD, they can discuss possible routes of treatment.
Often, overcoming the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder involves getting to the root of your trauma. Confronting childhood sexual abuse is never easy. But just as millions of other Americans suffer from PTSD, millions of other Americans have survived sexual abuse. You are not alone in either struggle.